Trees Cry For Rain.
Jeri is an author, traveler and Family Therapist with over nineteen books and hundreds of articles to her name. She writes adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction. She has appeared on television, radio, book events, seminars, workshops and the Internet. Dr. Fink’s work has been praised by community leaders, educators, reviewers and critics around the country.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Jeri. It's lovely to have you here. Can you tell us where you grew up?
Bayside, Queens - in the shadow of Manhattan. I was taking city buses and subways when most kids my age were riding bikes and playing with dolls. City life was always an adventure, even in the "outer" boroughs. I walked to school, which always seemed like an endless trek for a little kid. I passed people in the street and made up stories about them. My favorite stories often involved Alex, the ice cream man. All the kids loved him. But in my head, Alex was plunging into dark, evil city parks, rescuing wild stallions with fiery eyes, and finding passionate love on the 7 train. I bought ice cream every day!
When did you begin writing?
I was eight years old and it was very late - long past my bedtime. Instead of sleeping, I aimed a flashlight on my notebook so I could write a new story. The black-and-white composition book was bursting with stories about people I knew and didn't know, strangers I saw on buses and subways, and characters I conjured up in my imagination. Behind me, there was a stack of notebooks. I filled every page with a story.
Then it hit me.
I was put on this planet to write.
I've done a lot of things since that moment. But I always knew what I was meant to do. That has never changed. I'm here to write. And that is something I will never forget.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I always write. Writing extends far beyond my keyboard and pen-and-paper. I'm constantly thinking, constructing new scenarios, visiting strange characters and being bombarded with ideas. My best (most energetic) writing is usually in the morning, from the time I get up until lunch - about five hours. The rest of the day is spent rewriting and editing. I'm one of those strange authors who actually ENJOYS rewrites and edits - it feels like I'm a painter using oils on a canvas. It takes more time for that process than writing the original manuscript! Frequently, in the late evening after 9 PM, I get a second wind and return for several hours to work on the original. If I hit any problems, I put the questions in my head right before I go to sleep. I wake up in the morning with the answers.
I'm writing this interview at 11 P.M.
What is this book about?
Trees Cry For Rain is a gripping historical novel that tells the story of courageous individuals who fought to survive the lethal forces of their times. The novel begins with one woman who gives her life to protect her three young daughters. Five hundred years later, this past ruthlessly crashes into the present where the ghosts of yesterday confront the newest generation.
Years ago, I read about a group of people in New Mexico who followed traditional Jewish customs although they were Catholic - lighting candles on Friday night, refusing to eat pork and playing Christmas games with a four-sided spinning top. Local historians traced their ancestry back to Secret Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition. I was haunted by their experiences. What was it like to live a double life - going to church with your neighbors while secretly practicing Judaism - a crime punishable by death? How did it feel to risk everything for religious beliefs? What happens when people keep dangerous secrets - live schizoid existences that span generations? Lastly, what would they look like today? It took me four years of research, travel, interviews and writing to answer those questions.
I chose New York City as the point of convergence - where the past crashes into the present. As a native New Yorker, I have always loved the mystery, challenge and contradictions of the city. It was a natural environment for my characters to find closure.
Are you a member of a critique group? If no, who provides feedback on your work?
I edit every word, idea and concept multiple times. When I can't find any more errors, I send my completed manuscript to at least six readers - the last one is a professional editor - then rewrite again, based on their comments. I have lengthy discussions with and about my characters and check each historical fact in many different sources. When I can't correct another word, I know the manuscript is ready. Happily, Casey Swanson, my publisher, has validated my obsessive attention to detail. He said that the book hardly needed editing. That's one of my favorite compliments!
Who is your favorite author?
There are so many good books and authors that I want to read everything and everyone. Although I prefer some genres, like historical fiction and psychological thrillers, I try anything. Some of my favorite modern classics are by Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, Uris and Michener. Mark Twain was one of my earliest muses. As a teenager, I cried with Anne Frank and Pearl S. Buck, and read every word Kurt Vonnegut and Tolkien wrote. I'm a devoted J.K. Rowling fan! These days, I make sure to read books written by some of my favorite contemporary authors like Greg Iles, Naomi Regan, Jodi Picault, Harlan Coben, Nelson DeMille . . . the list goes on as long as authors are writing good books! My favorite journalist is Marge Mendel. Her work is awesome!
Do you have an agent or are you looking for one?
I have had several agents over the years - and none of them ever sold a book for me! At one point, I had an agent with a fancy Manhattan address and a publicist - but no luck. Trees Cry For Rain was sold to my publisher (Dailey Swan) after I met them at BEA (Book Expo America) in New York. My first Trees book signing took place, pre-publication, at BEA!
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
Is any road to publication smooth? I experienced the best (and worst) in the industry. My first professional job was a copywriter for Prentice-Hall. From there I went to Bantam Books, and eventually into free-lance journalism. The rigid requirements of copywriting helped enormously in developing the "craft" of writing. Since then, I've experienced everything from the joy of publishing fiction and nonfiction to the anger of having my work stolen and published under an in-house editor's name who had reviewed it for publication (No - I never filed a lawsuit. I didn't want to risk getting a bad reputation in the industry). I've met editors who are like the legendary Max Perkins (the man who edited Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Wolfe) and kids out of college who need a course in grammar. I've come up against unscrupulous book doctors (people who charge money to edit an individual book) and haughty, competitive authors. I haven't had a New York Times bestseller yet, but who knows?
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would make my first book a bestseller! Of course, that wasn't in the cards :-)
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
Trees Cry For Rain can be purchased at most online book retailers, like amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and booksamillion.com. For those who like to support their local independent bookstores, go to indiebound.org Some local brick-and-mortar stores carry copies; if they don't, most will put in a special order to the major distributors that carry my book.
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?
Yes. Please visit me at my website - http://www.drjerifink.com/ - or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I'm all over the Internet - from Face Book and Scribd.com to Author's Den.
For those who want to have fun, check out my "Trees Travel" site, where readers send in photos of the book with family, friends, pets and colleagues from all over the world. You might find out why Wyatt Earp was late for the gunfight at O.K. Corral!
Go to: http://www.drjerifink.com/Trees_Travel_Photos.html
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
My video trailer is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGCrcixXsek
My video where I read from the book is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gzTRy6BlSs
What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?
Time - and the virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book.
What is up next for you?
I completed my next novel during the two years it took for Trees to be published. It's now on my publisher's desk. The working title is Jakob: A Perfect Psychological Storm. It's a different genre - a psychological thriller. I'm presently working on another historical novel, similar to Trees Cry For Rain, that begins in 17th century Manhattan.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Never stop reading, writing, learning, thinking and doing. It's all part of the final book. If you worry about writer's block, you'll get it. Each pause in the narration leaves time to reflect, review what has happened and visualize where it's headed. Writing is passion, craft and hard work. You have to really love it to create that special book.
Thank you for spending time with us today, Jeri. We wish you continued success.